“No Labels” Is Up to No Good!

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NOTE: I have determined to focus my blog posts on positive developments whenever possible. But frankly, the story I’m writing about here worries me a great deal.

It also infuriates me. There may be many folks with good intentions involved, but at the heart of this effort appear to be greed, deception, and a flamboyant disinterest/carelessness about the fate of America.

If you’re asked to participate in any efforts with the “No Labels” name attached—such as signing a petition to get their organization, which they refer to as a nonprofit, on the ballot in your state—please consider carefully before agreeing.

The “No Labels” rhetoric is designed to appeal to patriotic Americans who feel themselves without a political home. No Labels claims to be a “moderate, centrist” group. I realize that’s an attractive stance for many people these days.

But “No Labels” doesn’t mean “No Hidden Agenda.”

The No Labels crowd purports to be for bipartisanship—not the creation of a third party. As they rightly point out, big things in America have been accomplished through bipartisanship: the Civil Rights Act, the Affordable Care Act, the 2022 Infrastructure Bill.

Most Americans probably want the US to have two functioning political parties willing to work together for the greater good. Certainly President Biden has done everything he can to reach across the aisle—while pursuing his agenda for what he believes is best. And that agenda is for the most part very popular with a majority of Americans.

Picture This Scenario

It is April, 2024. President Biden is definitely the Democratic nominee. Former President Trump is definitely the Republican nominee. A bunch of people get together in Dallas, Texas (at the No Labels Convention) and say, in essence:

“A plague on both their houses! We want our independent unity ticket [two people most of us know little about] to be our presidential and vice presidential nominees. And since we’re on the ballot in all fifty states, we’re going to go all out to elect them.”

With the Electoral College giving the advantage to Republican states, and voter suppression laws in force in a number of states, what is the likely outcome?

Donald Trump will be elected the 47th president of the United States. Our noble effort to become the world’s first multiracial, multiethnic democracy will suffer a potentially mortal blow.

Judd Legum and Rebecca Crosby explain, in an important Popular Information article that’s worth reading in full, how that could happen.

It’s unlikely that the group will actually gain any electoral votes, they write, but they can accumulate enough votes to deny either party an Electoral College win. That would mean the House of Representatives, with each state delegation having one vote, would elect the next president. The House Republicans have a one-state majority.

My consciousness about No Labels’ current seriously scary roadmap was awakened by blogging friend Tengrain, who ran a post on MockPaperScissors titled “Warning: Joe Lieberman Is Feeling Relevant Again.”

Tengrain linked to a Washington Post article that begins by stressing that former Senator Lieberman, who would have been elected as Al Gore’s Vice President if it hadn’t been for Ralph Nader’s presence on the Florida Presidential ballot in 2000, surely knows “better than most the impact third-party bids can have on presidential elections.”

Nader got more than 97,000 votes in Florida; Gore-Lieberman lost by 537 votes.

Nevertheless, the Democrat-turned-Independent has signed on to No Labels’ plans to get on the presidential ballot in all 50 states for the 2024 election. He’s the group’s national co-chair, along with former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (a Republican) and, sadly, civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis, Jr.

When asked if Biden would be unacceptable to the No Labels crowd, Lieberman responded:

“No decision has been made on any of that. But we’re putting ourselves in a position… You know, it might be that we will take our common-sense, moderate, independent platform to him and the Republican candidate and see which one of them is willing to commit to it. And that could lead to, in my opinion, a No Labels endorsement.”

But Biden is not acceptable to “No Labels” at this point. And if he’s unwilling to commit to adhering to their “common-sense, moderate, independent platform,” which appears to include some positions in opposition to his beliefs and initiatives, their “No Labels 2024 Insurance Policy” kicks in, and they field their own candidates.

The criteria for deciding to back their own candidates is based, in part, by polling that shows discontentment with both major party candidates. In 2020, Biden led among voters who disliked both candidates by 15 points. We saw in 2022 how unreliable such polling can be. Remember the “red tsunami”?

Not incidentally, these Insurance Policy candidates will have been spared the grueling process of appearing before large numbers of the electorate so voters can see what they’re all about, how they’d compare to Biden or Trump, and how they respond to voters’ concerns.

One can argue that the primary system needs work. I think it’s healthy that ranked choice voting is appearing in more places. Some still long for the pre-primary days when party regulars picked their candidates in smoke-filled rooms.

I don’t know about their smoking habits at No Labels, but that backroom deal is what they’re doing.

The 2024 election is not the time to muck things up with the claims of appealing to bipartisanship when a right-wing fringe is so clearly in control of the GOP. The evidence continues to mount—with Republicans’ efforts to stymie issues the majority of Americans want, such as reproductive rights, voting rights, sensible gun safety legislation, etc, etc—that the Republicans aren’t interested in bipartisanship.

Rather, they seek to gain and retain power through minority rule. In states in which they’ve secured a legislative supermajority, such as Missouri and Florida, where there is no check on them, they’ve run rampant over people’s rights.

Examples: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just signed (quietly) a bill barring abortions after six weeks, when most women don’t know they’re pregnant. In Missouri, legislators rejected a ban on unsupervised children’s carrying guns in public.

And the so-called budget the House Republicans just passed in an attempt to force President Biden to cave under the threat of defaulting on our nation’s debt—which they know won’t pass the Senate and the President would veto—pandered to the most right-wing among them.

It called for deep cuts to programs Americans care about and need, and included the requirement to approve the debt ceiling in less than a year, so they could try similar extortion before the presidential election.

Biden’s position, learned from recognition of the mistake Obama made in negotiating over the debt ceiling, is that once Congress agrees to pay for money already spent–as they did three times during the Trump administration (which was responsible for a whopping 25% of our national debt)–he’s glad to talk about the budget going forward.

No Labels faults him for this position. They endorse a Problem Solvers framework to set up an independent commission focused on the debt and deficits.

The problem is that if the Republicans on the Problem Solvers Caucus were truly acting in good faith, they could have stopped passage of McCarthy’s dangerous plan.

So regardless of what No Labels professes, bipartisanship does not exist in many US states and in the US Congress today. From that flawed premise comes a potentially disastrous political gamble.

And though Lieberman has said they don’t want Trump to win, No Labels has circulated a projected map in which they win about two-thirds of their Electoral College votes from states that supported Biden in 2020. (This link, which appeared in the Popular Information article, leads to information worth careful scrutiny, including the fantasy map of No Labels’ Electoral College victory, winning Delaware and Connecticut, for example.)

Where Did No Labels Come From—and What Do They Profess?

No Labels has been around since 2010, created by a former Democratic fundraiser named Nancy Jacobsen, who is now its CEO. The people behind it are seizing the forthcoming 2024 election as an opportunity to make a Big Statement.

Their Policy Playbook is silent on several of the issues most important to Americans today: abortion; gun safety; voting rights; threats to democracy.

Some of the ideas in their Policy Playbook are sensible enough.

In fact, some are already under way due to legislation the Biden Administration has effected. Under “Essential Tax Reform Principles” they cite “Collect What Is Owed.”

Funny, I thought that was what Biden just got written into law in the Inflation Reduction Act. (It’s certainly not what McCarthy’s plan advocates: the Republicans want to roll back the efforts to make tax evaders pay their fair share.)

And they seek to increase energy independence by having the US use government purchasing to transition to cleaner fuels—also being done by the Biden administration.

Other No Labels ideas, like reducing corporate tax rates, are clearly aimed at reversing some of the advancements the Biden administration has made toward a more economically equitable society.

Which Brings Me to This Question:

Who are the donors that have enabled No Labels to raise the $70 million they’re using for this dangerously untimely campaign?

They won’t say, ostensibly to protect the safety of such individuals (!?). According to Legum and Crosby,

“The group has not revealed any of its donors. It’s an odd position for an organization dedicated to restoring ‘trust, in institutions. In response to a request for comment, a No Labels spokesperson said the organization does not release its donors because it is not required by law, and ‘agitators and partisan operatives try to destroy organizations they don’t like by attacking and intimidating their individual supporters.’”

New Republic has reported that from 2019 to 2021, No Labels received more than $100,000 from billionaire Harlan Crow—you know, Justice Clarence Thomas’s second-best friend, after Ginni—and Crow also helped them get other donors from his roster of just-folks friends from his SuperYacht universe.

Does that tell you anything?

Their unwillingness to declare their funding sources has led to an interesting lawsuit in Arizona, one of four states where they are on the ballot to date (the others are Colorado, Alaska, and Oregon).

The Arizona Secretary of State listed them on the ballot as No Labels Party, though they claim they’re a nonprofit, not a political party.

If they’re a political party seeking to affect an election outcome, they must meet certain requirements, such as limiting contributions and reporting expenses made in seeking to influence an election.

The attorney who’s suing in behalf of the state Democrats to keep No Labels off the ballot described the situation:

“We have an organization that wants to be recognized as a political party, but it’s simply not disclosing who their donors are.”

There are similar issues nationally. Unfortunately, fifteen years ago, a court ruled against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and in favor of a third-party entity, saying it didn’t have to register as a political party.

Adav Noti was the FEC attorney on that case, NPR reports. (He’s now legal director at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group.) He says No Labels’ position today is what the FEC was concerned about in that litigation fifteen years ago.

To Noti, No Labels’ operating to influence elections by “raising and spending money without being subject to disclosure makes it the epitome of a dark money group.”

“Centrists?” “Moderates?”

Legum and Crosby, in Popular Information, also point out No Labels’ flirtation with Trump in 2016, their criticism of the January 6 Committee’s investigation as “a partisan exercise about which the public is skeptical,” and their public opposition to Biden’s family-friendly Build Back Better legislation, in which No Labels sided with Manchin and Sinema, who joined with the Republican opposition to kill the bill.

Perhaps most important, they state that previous Wall Street backers of President Biden are disappointed by proposed Security and Exchange Commission rules. Lobbyists in the financial industry are “beyond frustrated” with Biden’s willingness to effect financial regulation to rein in their excesses.

With this knowledge, the “No Labels Insurance Policy” sounds to me like “The Way That Corporate America, Sundry Anti-Regulators, and Various Quiet Right-Wingers Can Beat Back Joe Biden Even If It Puts That Trump Felon Back in the White House.”

In fact, with Trump’s approval ratings now at an all-time low of 25%, “No Labels” may be the only way he could win the presidency.

The press uniformly refers to No Labels as a “centrist” organization. I disagree.

Please let me know your thoughts on all this.


31 thoughts on ““No Labels” Is Up to No Good!

  1. Thanks for ‘putting us wise’ to NO LABELS.They may talk a good game, but lots of “hidden agenda” artists (and politicians) talk a good game. We would be wise to judge them by what they do (and don’t do), rather than by what they say.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. That’s true, mm. And to me they’re doing an enormous amount of damage to efforts to preserve America’s fragile democracy—under the pretense of saving it.

      Please help spread the word to your friends and family.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I’ve been reading about this. Hardly surprising that, according to the Popular Information article, their donors that we do know about are mostly corporate executives — the kind of people that commonly lean Republican. Obviously they’re hoping to replicate what Nader did in 2000 and what Stein did in 2016. It’s neither complicated nor surprising.

    It also means that No Labels is not operating in good faith. No third candidate has any real chance of winning the presidency, and many of the people involved in this are savvy enough to know that (as you observe about Lieberman). Thus they know that the only result of their efforts can be to bleed off votes from one of the two main candidates, as in the two previous cases, and muck up the outcome between them.

    It’s unlikely that the group will actually gain any electoral votes, they write, but they can accumulate enough votes to deny either party an Electoral College win

    I think this is conflating two separate scenarios. If No Labels doesn’t get any electoral votes, then all the electoral votes will go to the two main candidates and one of them will get an Electoral College win. The danger there is that No labels would get enough votes in a few close states to shift the victory in those states from one major candidate to another (as happened in Florida in 2000 and in Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016). Actually denying either candidate an Electoral College win and throwing the election to the House would require that No Labels actually carry at least one or two states and get their electoral votes, so that neither major candidate got to 270. That would be disastrous, but it’s extremely unlikely.

    Claiming that they aren’t a party in order to dodge the normal reporting rules looks very shady. If they’re running candidates, then functionally they’re a party. I hope the lawsuits in those four states (including mine, I notice) can force them to drop the façade.

    I don’t know how likely it is that they’ll succeed in changing the election outcome. Even Democrats who have objections to Biden (I myself have a lot) must be aware of what happened in 2000 and 2016 and not want to risk electing Trump or DeSantis — assuming one of them is the Republican nominee, as now looks likely. On the other hand, there’s always a small percentage of the terminally uneducatable, and it only takes a small number of voters in a 50-50 state to swing that state from one major candidate to the other. All one can do is clarify the risks to as many people as possible.

    So it’s important to get the word out — which makes this post a valuable service.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. No Labels’ status as a spoiler, which—like every spoiler, they have the hubris to deny—may be neither complicated nor surprising, Infidel, but it seems to me more threatening with each outrage on the part of Trump and the acquiescent Republicans, compounded by the funding and backing that No Labels has secured. And the “Insurance Policy” candidates who would enter the race only after all primaries have been completed strikes me as the height of arrogance.

      Your point about conflating the two election scenarios is well taken. Unfortunately, the outcome would be the same.

      To my knowledge, Arizona is currently the only state where there’s litigation against No Labels’ presence in the ballot. No Label has secured a ballot position there and in Colorado, Alaska, and Oregon.

      Thanks very much for your closing comment. I am grateful. I hope people will share the information as widely as possible.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. In 2013, No Labels adherents, mostly from out-of-state, bombarded former Republican Rep. Tom Reed’s facebook page with supportive comments. Some advocated a Huntsmen/Manchin ticket in 2016.

    In 2015, No Labels adherents showered Tom Reed (R-NY) with ill-deserved praise. Their program, mostly platitudes, closely matched Reed’s political advertising. Reed was a member of No Labels, but Reed’s campaigns focused on labeling his opponents as extreme.

    In 2018, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) wrote: No Labels is slick, and I got duped. But no other current or newly elected member of Congress should fall for its shtick. No Labels is a centrist, corporate organization working against Democrats with dark, anonymous money to advance power for special interests.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for adding this recent history, William. I had heard in passing about No Labels over the years but was unaware of their growth. Am I correct that the 2013 story refers to Jon Huntsman, not Reed?

      Manchin seems to have decided early on to hang out with No Labels. He’s said this year that he’d be happy to consider running as No Labels’ presidential candidate.

      I appreciated Pocan’s 2018 piece, but I think No Labels’ actions make “centrist” an ill-fitting description.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Matthew. I’m not surprised you hadn’t heard about No Labels. My worry is that too many American voters haven’t heard anything other than their “centrist, moderate” rhetoric and don’t realize the consequences.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s beyond unfortunate that most third-party efforts bleed votes from Democrats rather than Republicans. One of my fantasies is that Ron DeSantis gets the 2024 Republican nomination and Trump mounts a third-party bid, throwing the election to Biden or whoever the Democrats nominate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve harbored that same hope, Gail. Doesn’t look like DeSantis has much talent in “retail” politics, though. (I do think it’s clear at this point that Biden will be the Democratic nominee.)


  5. These are not principled people. How any red flags does it take. They are willing to give the reins of power back to Trump after witnessing the disaster. I am at a loss to understand the end game.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for the ‘heads up’ and the info, Annie! I had heard of “No Labels”, but was not aware of their agenda, hidden or otherwise. I will steer clear of them, for sure, and will share your post later this weekend to warn others, as well. Thanks again!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re most welcome, Jill. I think the only way to mitigate their potential damage is to inform as many people as possible that their pretense dangerously differs from their plans. So thank you in advance for helping me spread the word!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I fully agree. An educated public should be able to make more informed decisions. Trouble is in this day and age, far too many scoff at facts and prefer the fantasies that match what they want the world to be.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Another “centrist, moderate” group to watch is the Problem Solvers Caucus. Voting as a block, they claimed credit for narrow passage of the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill,” H.R. 3684 (117th Congress) in 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do watch them, William. They were the ones who insisted that Biden’s family-friendly Build Back Better legislation be separated from the Infrastructure bill, leading to the demise of that potentially transformative legislation. No Labels claims credit for their existence.


  8. I agree with you, as usual, Annie. I believe I read a piece by Joe Lieberman saying that this groups idea is to have as Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees one Democrat and one Republican. I really don’t think this could work, and definitely would worry about the prospect of a third party, in as closely divided country as we are, to result in a dangerous person like Trump or Desantis being the victor.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Things are not always what they seem, are they? When the magician pulls a rabbit out of his hat or a quarter out of his ear at a magic show, we laugh … it’s all in good fun. But when a candidate for office or a political organization start playing shell games, the humour is gone, for it is our very lives at stake. Our friend Annie has a cautionary warning about a political organization that on the surface, seems to support centrist, bi-partisan policies and politics, but when you pull back the curtain, there is much more to it than first thought. It rather reminds me of what was behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz. Thank you, Annie, for this very timely warning … forewarned is forearmed.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The pleasure was mine, Annie! Part of the problem in this country today is people are not getting factual information … we need to all pull together to make sure the facts are known far and wide. Some will choose to ignore them, but so be it. We’ll open as many eyes as we can.


  10. If this organization was truly all about “bipartisanship,” they would realize that one of the political issues that Americans are particularly bipartisan about is their disdain for big money and dark money in politics. The lack of transparency about their funders makes it clear that their real purpose has nothing to do with trying to heal the political divide in our country. Something stinks here.

    Liked by 1 person

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